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Court dismisses appeal by man sentenced to death for murdering girlfriend in Geylang hotel

Court dismisses appeal by man sentenced to death for murdering girlfriend in Geylang hotel

Screengrab of Golden Dragon Hotel from Google Street View.

SINGAPORE: A man who was sentenced to death for murdering his girlfriend in a Geylang hotel had his appeal against conviction dismissed on Wednesday (Jan 19).

The Court of Appeal found that the defence had not established the partial defence of diminished responsibility, nor rebutted any elements of the murder charge.

Bangladeshi Ahmed Salim, 33, was sentenced to death in December 2020 for killing Indonesian national Nurhidayati Wartono Surata, 34, after a tryst at the Golden Dragon Hotel on Dec 30, 2018.

He was found guilty of strangling her with a towel after she refused to leave another man for him. He also tied a rope around her neck in several knots and twisted her head forcefully, causing her to die of strangulation and a cervical spine injury.

Ahmed, who was betrothed to another woman at the time of the offence, argued that he was tormented by the idea that the woman he loved was seeing another man and leaving him.

However, the trial judge found that Ahmed's actions before, during and after the killing showed "premeditation, cogent planning and methodical execution".

Ahmed, who is defended by Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, Mr Chooi Jing Yen and Mr Hamza Malik, appealed against the murder conviction. The lawyers asked for the charge to be downgraded to one without a mandatory death sentence, saying he was driven by his adjustment disorder that was directly caused by his relationship problems.

At trial, Ahmed claimed that the victim had told him on the night of the murder that her new lover was "better than you in the hotel", "better in bed" and better financially.

In their judgment on Wednesday, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Justices Andrew Phang and Chao Hick Tin dismissed the defence's argument.

They agreed with the trial judge that Ahmed's preparatory steps and the manner in which he executed his plan showed beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to kill the victim.

They also agreed that the victim did not utter the humiliating words Ahmed alleged she had. The words were not in Ahmed's police statements and there was no explanation for why he had not told the police nor the psychiatrist who examined him.

The judges found that Ahmed's adjustment disorder did not substantially impair his mental responsibility for the murder. This was because he was "rational, had self-control and was fully able to comprehend events at the critical moment when he finally decided to kill (the victim)".

He also admitted in his statements that he decided to kill her because he was afraid she would call the police.

He told the psychiatrist: "I ... slapped her. Then I thought if I let her go now, she would call police so I thought, I might as well kill her."

These statements showed that Ahmed was able to exercise self-control and rational thought right up to the time of the killing, the court found.

Source: CNA/ll(gs)

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